The pandemic is far from over. But this fall, most schools around the country are offering in-person classroom options. Whether your kids are old enough to get vaccinated or your school is offering mostly digital classes, there’s still a risk of your child or your family getting sick, whether from covid-19 or the common cold cases.
Here are the CDC’s recommendations for safely returning your kids to school this fall while keeping them and your family healthy.
Have A Plan In Place
Identify the nearest testing sites near your home, kids school(s), and workplace. Determine what your family plan of action will be if someone reports covid symptoms and review the plan with your family each week. Here’s our recommendation if someone reports symptoms:
* Isolate the individual reporting symptoms from the rest of the family
* Get the individual tested and keep them isolated while awaiting test results (this includes the people who came in contact with the individual)
* Call all immediately family members and anyone who’d be in contact with the person
* If test results come back negative, great! You can reunite the family
* If test results come back positive, follow these CDC guidelines for caring for someone who has covid
Print out the guidelines and keep them posted in a visible spot in your home so everyone can reference them at all times.
Reframe The School Experience
Covid-19 fundamentally disrupted everyone’s lives and students are likely excited to go back to school. Have a conversation with your kid about how school will look different. They’ll likely see desks positioned further apart, group activities will look different, lunch and snack breaks will have new safety rules, and kids may get their temperature checked multiple times each day.
This can feel overwhelming and negative for your kid so keep an eye out for changes in their behavior like agitation, excessive crying or irritation, excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, or difficulty concentrating. These may be signs of your child struggling with the stress and anxiety of transitioning back to school and may require intervention. Try family activities that reduce stress, such as short road trips, sunset walks, or a midweek movie night. If your child’s stress isn’t easily relieved, you can also try counseling. If counseling is needed, consider virtual counselors like BetterHelp since they’re easy to access and can feel less unusual to your child than driving to an in-person session with a counselor.
Check if your school has a plan to help students adjust to being back in school. Support plans may include school counseling and psychological services (including grief counseling), social-emotional learning (SEL)-focused programs, curricula, and peer/social support groups.
You should also check to see if the school is offering activities such as mindfulness or outdoor yoga to encourage stress relief and promote mental health.
Daily Pre-School Check
Each day, check your child for signs of illness. Ask about even the smallest of signs like a tickle in their throats and things as big as a body aches, fever, diarrhea, and headaches. Check their temperature as well.
If they have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, or report any symptoms, they should not go to school. Isolate them from the rest of the family and get them tested immediately.
Know About School Protocols
First, identify your school point person(s) to contact if your child gets sick. That way, the school can perform contact tracing to help protect the school population. In addition, get acquainted with the school’s safety protocols and follow them closely. Ensure your information is current at school, including emergency contacts and individuals authorized to pick up your child(ren) from school. If that list includes anyone who is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider identifying an alternate person.
What happens if a kid gets sick?
Be familiar with your school’s plan for how they will communicate with families when a positive case or exposure to someone with COVID-19 is identified and ensure student privacy is upheld.
Be familiar with how your school will make water available during the day and consider packing a water bottle. If there are remote days available, encourage your child to stay home on remote days to avoid risk of exposure to sick kids at school.
If your child rides a bus, plan for your child to wear a mask on the bus since masks are required by federal order on school buses and other formats of public transportation. Ensure your child knows to follow bus rules and any spaced seating rules. If carpooling, plan on every child in the carpool, including the driver, to wear a mask for the entire trip. If your school uses the cohort model, consider finding families within your child’s group/cohort at school to be part of the carpool.
You can also opt to drop off and pick up your kid(s) to prevent more exposure risk on their daily commute. You may also volunteer to help maintain health and safety standards at the school if your schedule allows.
Prepare Your Kid For Proper School Safety
Practice good hygiene at home but also encourage your child to follow those practices at school. Remind them to:
* Wash and sanitize their hands more often (encourage your kid to make a game out of hand washing so they’re more likely to do it when you’re not around)
* Keep physical distance from other students
* Wear a mask at all times
* Avoid sharing objects with other students, including water bottles, devices,
writing instruments, and books
* Use hand sanitizer (that contains at least 60% alcohol.) Make sure you’re using a safe product. FDA recalled products that contain toxic methanol
* Monitor how they feel and tell an adult if they are not feeling well
Work ON Masks
While we’ve gotten accustomed to masks, it can still be the last thing on our kids minds when they’re at school playing with friends. Make it as easy as possible for your kids to keep their masks clean and covering their nose and mouth.
Explain the importance of wearing a mask and how wearing masks can reduce the chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Ensure they have multiple masks while at school so you can wash them in cycles and always have back-ups ready. Give them masks that fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, completely cover the nose and mouth, are secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and can be washed and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
Also be sure to label your child’s masks clearly in a permanent marker so that they are not confused with those of other children and practice putting on and taking off masks without touching the cloth.
Stay Up-To-Date on Vaccines
Make sure your child is up-to-date with all recommended vaccines, including for flu. All school-aged children should get an influenza flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions. This is especially important this year because we do not yet know if being sick with COVID-19 at the same time as the flu will result in more severe illness.
Practice Self-Care As A Family
Check in with your kid daily; ask them how school is going and about interactions with classmates and teachers. Find out how your child is feeling and let them know that what they may be feeling is normal. Be kind to each other, especially during difficult days. Don’t be shy about finding new self-care routines that may not have been practiced before. Here are a few ideas:
* Cook a meal together
* Create a family playlist with everyone’s favorite songs
* Have movie nights and picnics
* Have a photo scavenger hunt
* Have a family game night
* Volunteer at a local charity
* Start a family volunteer project
* Write letters to each other
* Take an ice cream break
Transitioning back to school at the tail end of a pandemic is a new experience for your kid; encourage them to be brave by modeling kindness and vulnerability. Let them know that you’ll always be there for them and do everything you can to protect them. And if they get sick, rest assured that you’ll muster up the strength and courage to care for them in that situation as well.